Is That Voice In Your Head Helping Or Hurting You?
Each day we see countless advertisements, from a car commercial on TV to a targeted ad for your favorite clothing brand on Instagram. US companies alone invested almost $250 billion on advertising in 2020. And why? Because it works.
Maybe we don’t immediately run to the store or call that new service we heard about, but advertising eventually works. Advertisements tend to create positive feelings about the product or service, eventually encouraging a certain behavior. Through a positive narrative, specific language, and your attention, you’re drawn in. At the end of the day, you often believe what you hear. But these tendencies are not just true for advertisements—what you tell yourself can determine your experience.
The stories you tell yourself determine your success. Like an advertisement, your self-talk (that voice inside your head) can drive your behavior through the power of narrative. The challenge is when this self-talk is negative and causes you to spiral. First you tell yourself that you’re not good enough or that you will be bad at something; your actions reflect these pessimistic beliefs, only reinforcing your initial negative self-talk. That voice inside your head doesn’t just stay there—it can manifest itself in your behavior, creating false reasoning or a false sense of purpose. Whether it be through fear or stress or anger, your attention becomes occupied by these cyclical, distorted beliefs.
According to the Mayo Clinic, there are generally four types of negative self-talk: personalizing, filtering, catastrophizing, and polarizing. Personalizing is when you automatically blame yourself, filtering is when you magnify the negatives such that they always outweigh any positives, catastrophizing is when you expect the worst, and polarizing is when you only see the negative without any middle ground. No matter the type, it can have consequences such as decreased motivation or self-confidence and is linked to increased risk of mental health problems including depression or anxiety. These feelings will become your reality if you let it, but they don’t have to be.
The first step to challenging your negative self-talk is to identify it. Listen to yourself and acknowledge that you are your own critic. It can help to write some of these thoughts down and remind yourself that it’s normal to have these beliefs from time to time. Once you have identified it, you need to stop yourself. When you have a negative thought, ask yourself if that’s really true. Eventually, try to change this negative inner dialogue to a more supportive, encouraging one. Instead of telling yourself you are going to fail a test, tell yourself you are going to try your best and focus on that. You don’t need to change yourself, but you need to change your perspective to do this. Once you have mastered your mindset, this can alter your behavior, and push you towards success. Like in advertising, with this new positive narrative, specific language, and your attention, you have the power to determine your experience.
Written by: Manvi Malhotra
Image by Select Health